’Hospital of Tomorrow’ Breaks the Mold in Queens, N.Y.

Tue September 09, 2014 - Northeast Edition
Lori Lovely

Davis Brody Bond photo
A rendering of the expanding Mount Sinai Hospital.
Davis Brody Bond photo A rendering of the expanding Mount Sinai Hospital.



Over the past decade several hospitals in Queens have closed, but the historic Mount Sinai Queens is doing just the opposite. Last summer it broke ground on a $125 million expansion project.

Dubbed the “hospital of tomorrow” by Mount Sinai Health System President and CEO Kenneth Davis, the 150-year-old hospital will add a new five-story building that will feature seven new operating suites, facilities for primary care and a larger emergency department with 36 patient bays, eight observation beds, an off-street “drive-through” ambulance bay, a separate walk-in entrance and a new imaging suite.

“Seven new operating rooms will be updated with the latest medical technology — [a] total of 10 OR suites — together with holding, recovery and waiting rooms,” said Anna Rabin, assistant account executive of Solomon McCown & Company.

In addition, outpatient services will be improved by the addition of an integrated, multispecialty medical practice. “The newly expanded hospital will feature new primary care physicians in internal medicine, family practice, OB/GYN and pediatrics,” Rabin said.

There will be “space for new specialists in cardiology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, general surgery, pulmonary, orthopedics, thoracic and vascular surgery, a full imaging suite and integrated laboratory services, allowing physicians to view blood test results before seeing patients, helping to mitigate return visits.”

History Repeats Itself

Founded in 1852 by philanthropist Sampson Simson to meet the needs of New York’s rapidly growing Jewish community, Mount Sinai Hospital was the country’s second Jewish hospital. It remains one of the oldest teaching hospitals in the country and according to U.S. News & World Report, it’s also one of the best in 12 specialties. The main facility is located next to Central Park in Manhattan; the Queens location is an additional campus.

Four years after it opened, Mount Sinai was filled to capacity with soldiers from the Civil War. Over the decades, the need for the hospital has seen little lessening. The emergency room can’t keep up City Councilman Costa Constantinides told reporters. “We need this hospital.”

Mount Sinai CEO Caryn Schwab said the Queens hospital’s resources have been stretched in recent years, due to population growth and the closing of other hospitals, including Peninsula Hospital in Far Rockaway, St. John’s Hospital in East Elmhurst and St. Mary’s Hospital in Jamaica.

“Western Queens is growing, and at the same time we’ve lost five hospitals over the last six or seven years,” she told the media during the groundbreaking ceremony. “Mount Sinai has been a safety net for this community.

President and CEO Davis added that it “fills a real need here in western Queens.” He views the expansion as “our first step into the future.”

That step was 14 years in the making.

Progress Takes Time

The medical center had to seek a zoning variance from New York’s Board of Standards and Appeals in order to extend the hospital’s footprint to take up 100 percent of its lot and reach all the way to the sidewalk, build a five-story addition behind its current facility and renovate part of the existing building. The project will go up directly behind the original building at Crescent Street and 30th Avenue, site of the original Astoria General Hospital, which was taken over by Mount Sinai 14 years ago.

The self-funded project would increase Mount Sinai Queens’ emergency department by five times its current size, expand the size of its operating room and allow the hospital to hire 40 new physicians.

“The project will modernize the facility, which was originally built more than a century ago, so it can continue to deliver prime care in a current, up-to-date environment to the residents of New York City,” Rabin added. “The project also allows Mount Sinai Queens to incorporate the out-patient care models/practices patients desire for improved convenience.”

However, due to concerns expressed by neighbors about parking and noise, the board stipulated that the hospital address those issues. Schwab said those concerns have been met, in part, by building a driveway for ambulances in order to keep the vehicles from crowding neighboring residential streets. In addition, hospital officials will hold community meetings with the building’s immediate neighbors every few months during construction to hear any issues and problems that arise.

Designed to Serve

“Mount Sinai Health System’s goal is to offer patients personalized care with some of the world’s best specialists in one location to significantly improve healthcare for surrounding residents,” Rabin explained.

To do so, the new building will include new boilers, chillers and emergency generators to supply the entire campus. The existing facility will offer central air conditioning in all patient rooms.

When construction is completed in March 2016, the 125,000-sq.-ft. facility will present a unified exterior. New windows and new cladding on the current building will match the exterior of the new facility.

Scheduling installation of the windows and HVAC in the existing hospital was a challenge, Rabin said.

“The team offered a solution to carry out the new addition and renovation work concurrently to reduce the overall schedule from 42 to 31 months.”

NK Architects and Davis Brody Bond were the architects. Skanska USA is the general contractor, overseeing more than 100 workers on site at the project’s peak. Working predominantly on a weekday schedule, with some exceptions for hospital-sensitive work, crews have been operating a boom lift and track hoe excavator for initial work.

Once concrete and reinforcing work is completed, crews will use cranes for erection of structural steel, a curtain wall, roofing and MEP equipment.

Demolition and foundation work have been completed. The fill has been hauled off. Classified as Manhattan fill, it is not accepted at all landfills. It is closely monitored by third-party inspection.

At peak, 100 workers are expected to be on site, using a boom lift truck, excavator and a crawler crane for steel erection. Materials include concrete, re-bar, structural steel, glass curtain wall, limestone, boilers, chillers, cooling towers and emergency generators.

A spokesman of Skanska said it was a challenge to “work in an extremely constrained site in a residential community, demolish existing facilities and then to construct a 130,000-sq.-ft. health care facility directly abutting and contiguous to an existing and fully operational hospital and an existing ambulatory surgery facility.”

Their plan was to work closely with hospital personnel and proceed with the extensive enabling work required prior to demolition to untangle utilities that had been installed over the past 60 years, ran through the demolition site, and served the existing hospital. Constant communication with the hospital personnel, including senior management, has enabled progress.

Future challenges are expected when crews begin working in the existing hospital to upgrade the HVAC and install new windows and façade without impact to patient care.

Community Wellness

If construction remains on schedule, the new addition is expected to open by the summer of 2016, offering what Schwab calls “one-stop shopping” through a variety of services, with more space and privacy for the patients. The hospital’s president, David Rich, thinks of it as “an improved business model that will be putting patients first.”

The whole community benefits economically through 460 construction-related jobs created by the project, as well as 340 other related jobs and 160 staff jobs when the hospital is completed. The hospital said that $166 million will be added to the local economy.

It’s about keeping up with the changing needs of the growing community, said Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.

“The people of Western Queens are fortunate to have a hospital that is adapting the changes taking place in medicine today, and that will soon be offering a new level of 21st century care as we create this spectacular new building,” said David L. Reich, president and COO of The Mount Sinai Hospital.

(This story also can be found on Construction Equipment Guide’s Web site at www.constructionequipmentguide.com.) CEG